Preparation and opportunity intersected productively for two days for the Tampa Bay Lightning, as Executive Vice President Brian Lawton and his staff put the wraps on their very first NHL entry draft in Montreal on Saturday.
In addition to Victor Hedman
, the “crème de la crème” of the draft for the Bolts, the team traded up to grab another first round pick, Carter Ashton, marking the first time in Lightning history that the team had two first-round picks.
Ashton, grabbed with the 29th pick obtained from the Detroit Red Wings, was a great find for the Lightning, having been ranked as high as 10th on many draft boards.
“We are extremely thrilled to get the guy we had 11th on our list,” Lawton said. “We’re glad we had the opportunity trade up and take Carter where we got him. We fully expect him to be a power forward in the NHL. We welcome Carter to the Lightning organization.”
Ashton, 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, recorded 30 goals and 50 points last season, leading the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League in both departments. He scores from in close to the net, mostly within 5’ of the crease.
“Carter is a solid prototype power forward,” NHL Director of Central Scouting E.J. McGuire said. “He knows the game and is really astute at the power play and penalty kill.”
He also has enjoyed great success in shootouts, especially with the spin-o-rama move made famous by former Lightning forward Denis Savard.
Ashton’s comes from good hockey genes – his father, Brent, is a NHL veteran of 998 games with nine different teams.
In Round 2, with the 52nd overall pick, the Lightning selected Slovakia native Richard Panik
, a 6-3 forward who will join the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League next season.
Panik played in 15 games for Trinec of the Czech Super League last season, recording a goal and two points. He also played in 16 games with Trinec’s junior team, registering 10 goals and 19 points. Panik’s season was cut short due to injury.
“Richard is a skilled forward from Slovakia,” Lightning Head Amateur Scout Darryl Plandowski said. “He can score goals and is an excellent skater. Richard really needs to mature and get stronger but he has plenty of time to do so. He’ll be coming to North America next season with a good team and good coaches. We look forward to seeing his development over the next year or two”.
Round 4 brought a left wing in the mold of Marty St. Louis as Tampa Bay grabbed Alex Hutchings
from the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League with the 93rd overall pick.
Hutchings, at 5-10 and 173 pounds, might be considered small for the NHL, but he is an extremely fast skater.
“He brings an element that he is dangerous every time he’s out on the ice,” said Barrie General Manager Marty Williamson. “The speed he’s got, he can really burn and he’s got an accurate shot.”
In 2008-09 Hutchings produced 34 goals and 34 assists for the Colts.
For rounds 5 and 6, Tampa Bay shored up their goaltending corps, selecting Michael Zandor from the Oshawa Generals and Jaraslov Janus from the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League.
Zandor, a Toronto native, posted a .901 save percentage and 3.65 goals against average in 18 games. He battled injuries for the past two seasons, but earned raves for his work backstopping the Team Canada in the Under-18 World Junior Championships.
Janus, despite playing behind a porous Erie Otter defense in the OHL while allowing a goals against average of 3.24, was ranked as 18th among the North American goaltenders by NHL scouting. He earned top honors for goaltenders at the 2009 World Junior Championships while playing for Slovakia.
The Lightning put the finale on their draft with the 183rd overall selection, Kirill Gotovets
, a 5-11, 175-pound defenseman who most recently played for Shattuck-St. Mary’s last season.
Gotovets has another year of prep hockey to play, after which he will attend Cornell University. He’s small, but fast, and is considered to offer excellent puck movement. Gotovets has some growing to do but, as Lightning Head Amateur Scout Darryl Plandowski pointed out, he’s worth the gamble.
Seven players in two rounds; two first-round selections. A productive draft by almost any measure, and the Lightning couldn’t be more pleased.
“It was a good day and an overall great draft for us,” Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Lawton said. “With Saturday’s picks we are looking more at the long term and we’re really excited about what we were able to do with our selections today. We continued to take what we felt were the best players available at each position and we feel we got some excellent prospects.”